The big STR plan

Even a hummingbird cannot catch your average fan who’s at work on social media. There’s so much to do. He’s got to defend his hero against slander, both real and imagined. He’s got to diss rival actors, and their fan groups. He’s got to create memes and propagate it, and he’s got to desperately hope that his star’s next film is better than the rival actor’s. In the case of Simbu’s fans though, there are bigger concerns than the quality of the film… like the existence of the film itself. The fan-hero relationship here is a bit like the Ross-Emily relationship in F.R.I.E.N.D.S. It’s a marriage all right, but not quite involving the dedicated presence of one of the two parties. Sure, fiery speeches are delivered, and politically charged opinions are shared. But regardless of how charming an actor may be, or how magnetic his appeal, let it be said loud and clear that it is films that fuel fandom, that can truly whet the appetite of the fan.

Even his harshest detractor will shirk from criticising the actor’s apparent talent. It’s an aspect every filmmaker he’s ever worked with, including Gautham Menon, has always shouted from the rooftop with admiration. They’re always going on about how his positives far outweigh any negatives. “He may come late to the sets, but there isn’t another actor out there who can deliver performances as quickly, as effortlessly as he can.” They’d have you believe that he’s the masala hero equivalent of a Lionel Messi, a Roger Federer. A person packed to the brim with unbridled, raw talent, and entrusted to entertain. Yet, in the case of Simbu, the work — and consequently, the entertainment — hasn’t really been forthcoming, not as often as you’d want to see anyway.

But today is a rare good day. It’s when his film with Adhik Ravichander, Anbanavan Asaradhavan Adangadhavan (AAA), is releasing. It’s his first since the much-delayed release of Achcham Yenbadhu Madamaiyada almost seven months ago. Every single film starring him since Poda Podi in 2012 has since run the risk of being shelved before an eventual surprise release. It’s a tragedy really, for this is an actor who can sing, dance, fight, and set the screen alight with a natural charisma that many actors can only dream of. And this is a sentiment again echoed by almost every filmmaker who’s worked with him.

His penchant for showmanship was evident as a child actor. And later as a teenager, when he sprang on a stage, wearing a college bag, dancing to Padaiyappa’s title track. It was a planned performance, the first word of an ambitious story that was to result in him becoming the successor to Rajinikanth. It was why he was assigned the rather embarrassing sobriquet, Little Super Star–which Gautham Menon later assigned some respectability to, by amending it to Young Super Star. He even wagged his finger in films, complete with the whoosh sound we had been entranced by in Rajinikanth films.

You may have laughed at the imitation originally, but somewhere between Manmadhan and Silambattam, the hype became tangible. And you began wondering if it was just, maybe just, possible — especially when he was given a break from masala films by Gautham Menon who reinvented him to urban audiences with Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya. The stage, it seemed, was set for directors like Mani Ratnam and Shankar to step in and realise the big plan. Perhaps you could then slowly come to terms with the idea of removing the word ‘young’ from his sobriquet. It was the plan. For his fans, it was the dream.

But now, thirteen years after Manmadhan, after Simbu became STR and became Simbu again, the realisation of all his potential seems more distant than ever. It’s a frustrating story. And if it remains unrealised, what a titanic waste of precocious talent it would be. And for that sake, and for that sake alone, you have to keep a close eye on AAA. If it does well, perhaps it will again stoke that fiery, addictive passion in the actor that made him turn screenwriter at 20, and director at 22. Will the plan come alive again?

This column was written for The New Indian Express. All copyrights belong to the organisation. Do link to this page if you’d like to share this review.

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